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白糖糕 Bai Tang Gao - Steamed Rice Cake

Rice flour, sugar, and instant yeast are the only three ingredients you need to prepare this classic Chinese steamed rice cake (bai tang gao), and a steamer!
Rice flour, sugar, and yeast are the only ingredients you need to make bai tang gao (白糖糕), or Chinese steamed rice cake.

Rice flour, sugar, and yeast are the only ingredients you need to make bai tang gao (白糖糕), or Chinese steamed rice cake.

It must have been more than a decade since I last sink my teeth into a piece of 白糖糕 bai tang gao - steamed rice cake. Since both sets of my grandparents are Cantonese, I grew up eating tons of this soft and chewy cake.

It looks so simple, but believe me, getting that just right texture can be super tricky. Case in point, no one in my family ever attempts this cake and just buy some from the neighborhood shop when the craving hits.

Of course, living halfway across the globe means I have no access to the said trusty shop. But at last, I have managed to recreate this favorite childhood cake of mine :)

To prepare the bai tang gao batter: (1) Mix rice flour with water and stir into clumps; (2) Add hot boiling water and sugar liquid, whisk into a smooth batter; (3) Wait until the batter cools to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit); (4) Add instant yeast, whisk, cover the bowl and rest in 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) oven for 40 minutes.

To prepare the bai tang gao batter: (1) Mix rice flour with water and stir into clumps; (2) Add hot boiling water and sugar liquid, whisk into a smooth batter; (3) Wait until the batter cools to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit); (4) Add instant yeast, whisk, cover the bowl and rest in 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) oven for 40 minutes.

What you need to prepare bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)

Turns out, you only need three ingredients to make a bai tang gao:

  • rice flour (Note: I always use the one from Erawan brand, if you use another brand, proceed at your own risk)
  • sugar
  • instant yeast, you can use active yeast too but instant is easier
Note the many air bubbles in the batter if the yeast is properly activated at the end of the resting time.

Note the many air bubbles in the batter if the yeast is properly activated at the end of the resting time.

How to prepare the batter for bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)

I have a detailed step-by-step photo that I hope is sufficient to show the visuals of what you can expect the bai tang gao batter should look like.

  1. First, mix 250 gram of rice flour with 150 ml room temperature water into clumps.
  2. Boil 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water in a small saucepot. Once all the sugar dissolves, pour this to the clumpy rice flour mix from step 1. Whisk into a smooth batter.
  3. Wait for the batter to cool until only warm to touch. If you want to be precise like me, you can use a thermometer and it should read 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Also, you want to preheat the oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this point.
  4. Add the instant yeast to the batter and whisk to mix. Cover the mixing bowl with a saran wrap, then rest in the preheated oven. Immediately turn off the oven heat, and rest the batter for 40 minutes.

At the end of the resting time, you should see that the batter has many air bubbles, which indicates that the yeast is doing its job and we should be getting the desired cake texture. If you don’t see the air bubbles, your yeast is either dead or expired, and unfortunately, there is no point to continue cooking the cake since it will 100% fail.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake), just out from the steamer.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake), just out from the steamer.

Can I use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast?

If all you have in your pantry is active dry yeast, you can use that too. But we will need to modify some of our steps above.

  • Step 1: no change.
  • Step 2: instead of boiling 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water, use only 150 gram water with 350 ml water.
  • Step 3: no change.
  • Step 4: mix 20 ml warm water (38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit) with the active dry yeast and wait until foamy (usually about 5-10 minutes). Then add to the warm batter (not hot! preferably the batter is also 38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit), and mix. The rest of the step is the same.

Same as the case with using instant yeast, your batter should have many air bubbles at the end of the resting period. From my own experience, when I use active dry yeast if at step 4 I don’t see any foam after 5-10 minutes from the time I mix the yeast with warm water, it is 100% guaranteed that my yeast has already expired and is completely useless.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Prepping the cake pan

Once your batter has finish resting and has produced many tiny air bubbles, let’s prep our cake pan. I use an 8”x2” round cake pan.

For a successful bai tang gao, you need to pour the batter into a hot pan, so be sure to preheat the pan. It doesn’t need to be scalding hot, but definitely hot enough so it won’t be comfortable to grab it with bare hands.

Brush the hot pan with oil, give the cake batter a final stir so everything is well mixed, then pour the cake batter, and steam.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Steamer pot and tips for a successful steamed rice cake

I hope you do realize before this step that you need a steamer to complete this recipe. After all, we are making a steamed cake, and it even says so in the title.

You can use any kind of steamer as long as it can fit an 8”x2” round cake pan. I prefer a stainless steel steamer for hygiene reasons. But you can use a bamboo steamer too, and you are more likely to get a better result with a bamboo steamer.

Create a makeshift steamer

There is no need to rush out and buy a steamer if you currently don’t have one at home. Instead, you can use this guide from Food52 to create a makeshift steamer.

Fill a large pot with about half an inch of boiling water. Use aluminum foil to make three balls of roughly equal size. Once we are ready to steam, rest the cake pan on top of the foil balls. Cover the pot and steam the cake. Of course, you need to make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the aluminum foil balls and the cake pan.

Make sure to prevent water droplets fall onto the cake surface

Please make sure that there are no water droplets drop onto the surface of the cake. The steam that rises during the steaming process can condense and turn into water droplets that may fall onto the cake surface. If this happens, your cake may turn sticky and pudding-like instead of light and fluffy.

If you steam with a bamboo steamer and a bamboo cover, you shouldn’t encounter this problem. If your cover is made from metal or glass, please wrap with a piece of kitchen cloth so the cloth will trap the steam and prevent any water droplets from falling onto the cake surface.

And that’s all the tips that I have to prepare a successful bai tang gao (Chinese steamed cake). Enjoy!

白糖糕 Bai Tang Gao - Steamed Rice Cake

5.0 from 22 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson

Categories:

Cuisine:

Ingredients:

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

Serves: 8

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250 gram (8.8 oz) rice flour
  • 150 ml (10 tablespoon) water
  • 150 gram (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 370 ml (1.5 cup + 1 tablespoon) water
  • 5 gram (~ 1 teaspoon) instant yeast

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix 250 gram rice flour with 150 ml water. It won't be smooth at this point, so don't worry.
  2. In a small saucepot, boil together 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the water is boiling, pour this into the mixing bowl. Whisk until the rice flour mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit).
  4. Once the rice flour mixture reaches 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), add the instant yeast, and whisk well to combine. Cover the mixing bowl with saran wrap.
  5. Hopefully, your oven has reached 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this time. Turn off the oven, and place the covered mixing bowl in the warm oven and let the batter proof until the volume is roughly doubled, and you notice many small bubbles on the batter surface. This should take about 40 minutes.
  6. Prepare a steamer with about 1 inch of boiling water over medium-high heat. Heat an 8"x2" round cake pan until hot to touch. Brush the heated pan with oil, give the rice flour batter a final stir, then pour the batter into the pan.
  7. Steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and let the cake sit in the hot steamer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the steamer, and let it cool slightly in the pan over a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
  9. Once it is cool enough to handle, gently run a knife along the edges to loosen the cake from pan. Cover the pan with a plate, and flip the cake on to the plate. Then, flip again onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 8 wedges, and serve at room temperature with some hot tea.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen

Comments

  • Angela Angela says:

    I had no idea this would be so easy to make. It's one of my absolute favorite dishes. Thanks so much for sharing :)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Angela, this is the easy version. I actually have an old version recipe for bai tang gao that involves fermentation of 24 hours and more (the more the better), which is super involved. So I am glad there is an easy bai tang gao recipe with instant yeast. :)

  • Irina Irina says:

    Oh, WOW! This steamed rice cake is magical! It looks so airy! It is a must for me to make it! Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth Beth says:

    These look so tasty and elegant! Perfect party recipe!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Indeed, Beth. Especially if there's some delicious tea involved!

  • georgie georgie says:

    this sounds really interesting! I'd love to try it!

  • Farah Farah says:

    Wow this looks so interesting! I love exotic recipes like this and can't wait to try!

  • Tawnie Kroll Tawnie Kroll says:

    So easy to make - thank you for this recipe!

  • Haley D Williams Haley D Williams says:

    This looks so good! I have to try this with that rice flour! Cannot wait!

  • Noelle Noelle says:

    This is a very interesting recipe, I haven't tried anything like this before and I really enjoyed it. Thank you!

  • Kelly Anthony Kelly Anthony says:

    I've never made a steamed rice cake so I'm excited to cook something new.

  • Carrie Robinson Carrie Robinson says:

    I have never heard of this before, but it looks delicious. :)

  • Vanna Vanna says:

    Can you please convert to US metric.

  • Dawn Dawn says:

    Great recipe, easy to read directions. Thanks for converting the measurements for us. I made the rice cake last night and it tastes wonderful!

  • Patty at Spoonabilities Patty at Spoonabilities says:

    This looks so interesting! I've actually never heard of steamed rice cake and am super excited to try it!

  • Emily Emily says:

    Wow! I've never made steamed rice cakes before but now that I know it's easy, I need to try it!

  • Krissy Allori Krissy Allori says:

    Oh wow! This looks amazing. You post the best recipes. I have loved all the ones I have tried. Thanks for opening my world up to new things.

  • Christie Gagnon Christie Gagnon says:

    This looks lovely! Do you ever serve any type of sauce on top?

    • Anita Anita says:

      The cake is quite sweet on its own, so we usually serve the cake plain, Christie. I guess if I were to serve this with some sauce, I would choose to serve it with a palm sugar pandan syrup.

      To make the syrup, boil together 200 gram coconut palm sugar, 200 ml water, a pinch of salt, and 2-3 knotted pandan leaves. Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and rest for another 10-15 minutes before discarding the pandan leaves. Drizzle the cake with the coconut palm sugar syrup.

  • Biana Biana says:

    The rice cake looks amazing, I am looking forward to trying it!

  • Mrs Kunabalan Mrs Kunabalan says:

    I never thought making this cake would be so easy. I must try it

  • Amy Amy says:

    Hi, may i know why my fermentation stage, the batter shrunk in size instead of doubled?

    • Anita Anita says:

      That sounds very strange. The only ingredient responsible for the fermentation is the yeast, so I think the only possibility is there's something wrong with the yeast. Maybe try with a new batch of yeast? I'm sorry if I can't help much.

  • Meena Meena says:

    Excellent..the recipe is perfect.

  • Ann Ann says:

    Hi , may I know which brand of yeast is used? I have use the SAF instant dry yeast. But, the rice cake doesn't taste good. It has a very very strong alcohol taste and smell.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Ann, I usually use SAF instant yeast - gold (https://amzn.to/2zYq7DK).

  • Sherry Sherry says:

    Iconic old school Chinese dessert from the past and it turned out great.

  • Sabrina Sabrina says:

    Hi Anita! I want to make this soon, but before I do, I'd like to ask how you store your leftovers? Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Sabrina, if it is just for up to 2 days, you can store the leftover in an airtight container at room temperature. If it is up to a week, it is better to store in the fridge. If the cake turns hard during storage time, the best way is to steam the cake again until soft again.

  • Shari Shari says:

    It didn’t turn out. It was a sticky blob. My batter did bubble up and increase in size, so I don’t know what went wrong.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Shari, I'm sorry it didn't turn out well. I have another reader who also ended up with a sticky blob. Turned out she didn't wrap her steamer cover with a piece of cloth so the steam turns into water droplets and fall onto the surface of the cake during steaming. Her next attempt was a success.

      If you steam with a bamboo steamer, this is usually not a problem. But if you steam with a metal/glass cover, you want to wrap the cover with kitchen cloth so the steam is trapped by the cloth and won't drip onto the cake.

  • Ann Ann says:

    May I know how long would I need to ferment the mixture if I were to place it in room temperature instead of the pre heated oven?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Ann, it can take anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on your kitchen temperature. The batter is ready when you see that the volume has doubled and there are plenty of bubbles.

  • Diana Diana says:

    When I try to cover with a cloth , it would dip down and touch my cake batter. So I covered it with a plate (first time around I didn’t cover it and it turned out to be more pudding looking). I got the strings/honeycomb look but they’re pretty compact, the gaps are pretty small. What can I do to fix this?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Diana, this usually happens if the cake pan is not hot enough before pouring the batter. If you can make sure that the cake pan won't become wet, you can heat it inside the steamer for 5 minutes. Then double-check to make sure the pan is dry, then brush with oil, and pour the cake batter and steam.

  • Peter Peter says:

    Mine did not turn out either despite following the instructions completely. It came out too dense and lacked springiness. There were bubbles perhaps not enough. I used Fleischmann instant yeast.
    At a separate time, I let it to ferment longer but it developed too much alcohol and not enough sweetness. A "simple" recipe can be so difficult to master and replicate. I am open to suggestions or a more involved recipe. Even at dim sum restaurants there is considerable variability.

  • Carla Carla says:

    The recipe was easy to follow. It turned out good. I was just missing that rice wine flavor. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  • Jess Jess says:

    Hi, how would this recipe work with fresh yeast (not powdered) Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Jess, I have never tried using fresh yeast before so I'm not sure. Sorry I can't help.

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